It’s the 26th April 2022 and two of our committee members (Paul and Sally) are heading north east from New York City to visit one of our international members.

We sit on the express train through White plains and Hawthorne, Dover plains, Tenmile river and more rural parts of this interesting state.

Our intention is to meet with George, and to spend a couple of days talking about goats, how goat keeping in the US is different to the UK and Sally is tasked with assessing George’s harnessed goats and offering advice, guidance or both.

We arrived after a couple of hours on the train at a station called Wassiac – deep into the state of New York, to be met by George. He drove us the short distance to his lovely home to meet his chickens and most importantly,for us, his eight goats.

His home is a lovely; a quaint, quirky and homely wooden house with a gorgeous wooden barn right next door and the house looks over his three acre pasture and small vegetable garden. George explained that growing food is a challenge, not just due to the large snow fall in winter but also because he has to defend his veggies from deer, raccoons and groundhogs which love to dig up anything he plants!

We move on to the stars of our trip.Two entire males, a wether, two females and three adorable kids that Sally and I stated within five minutes that we both intended to steal!

George’s herd is made up of toggenburgs and a breed that neither Sally nor I had encountered before – Lamancha, a breed Spanish in origin, George informed us. These goats are a joy and delightful, curious looking to begin with but soon totally captivating. They are marked in a manner similar to an English but also have what we would describe as the Swiss stripes down their faces. They are large in size, same size, if not slightly taller than a Toggenburg. But the thing that makes them stand out is their total lack of ear pinner. They have ears, well, ear canals, protected by hair but no other obvious sign of an ear. This is a genetic perculiality of the breed. Striking and different looking they most certainly are, but the kids especially (Thutmose and Nefertiti) just melted our hearts.

George’s aim is to get his male lamancha (Rodrigo) fully in harness and working to collect groceries. His entirety however is causing George problems in ‘attitude’. Any of the members who have shared their holding with an entire male will know exactly what is meant here!

George has two other male goats one entire and one wether.

After meeting the goats and George prising Maximilian (a single toggenburg kid) and totally gorgeous, from my hands as I was now smitten, we hatched a plan for the following day. Behind George’s lovely home is a bike trail. Our plan was to harness up the male lamancha (Rodrigo) and walk both him, the male toggenburg (Heinz) and the wether (Nijinsky) and walk along the trail with them.

Day two

After George collected us from the cottage we were staying in, Sally gave George an instructional session on harnessing using Rodrigo. George has a cart (he called it a wagon) for him. He was concerned that the shafts of the wagon, though designed for a goat were a little short. When he and Sally brought the cart to the goat, as she explained… goat stands and cart brought to the goat, not goat backed into the cart’, it was clear George’s suspicions were correct.

Therefore Rodrigo was relieved of his harness and we all set off to both George’s garage and the hardware store with lashings of plans and excitement of how to solve the problem.

I felt this was like an episode of macyver (a tv program from the eighties) but no one else knew what I was talking about!

To cut a long story short, we found bits and pieces to lengthen the shafts by around fourteen inches (35cm – for those in the UK!).

Rodrigo was duly re-harnessed and this time attached to the wagon. Rodrigo is a very large,strong and opinionated goat but slowly under Sally’s guidance and George’s vocal commands within forty five minutes he was pulling George in the wagon around George’s garden. Now we all know ‘one

swallow doesn’t make a summer’ so let’s not pretend Rodrigo took to his workload with grace and acceptance. There would still be work to do for George, lots of it, but Rodrigo did go in harness and he did pull George, whilst he sat in the wagon.

So first job successfully completed.

Next it was the turn of the wether Nijinsky. Being a wether this was a far calmer, easier (he is a smaller toggenburg) experience and most importantly safer. Both Sally and I immediately impressed our opinion on George that Nijinsky is potentially the better goat to work with as is both calmer and consistent, but it is neither our goat or decision.

Nijinsky being a little smaller fitted into the wagon slightly more easily than Rodrigo, and again with Sally’s guidance was soon pulling George around the garden. It must be said without the enthusiasm of Rodrigo but Sally stated to George she could see massive potential but he needed work to build confidence.

So second task successful.

The last job of day to was to walk Rodrigo, Nijinsky and the other entire male (Heinz) up the trail, just for fun, but of long reining and browsing some verges and hedgerows.

Both Rodrigo and Heinz were very pleased to be out, Nijinsky though, being less confident, slipped his head collar less than ten metres from home and calmly walked back! (I ask you, who’d have a goat!!!).

The other two however had a grand time and Sally suggested that Heinz would make an excellent pack goat as he was so stable, yet strong, and would be able to easily carry George’s groceries from the store.

So task three of the day successful (well partially).

A plan was hatched for the final day of our time with George to re-harness both Rodrigo and Nijinsky. A second training session under the tutelage of Sally should build some confidence in both Nijinsky and George in his harness technique but also to try to focus Rodrigo on his new role at home.

Day three

Wow, what a difference a day makes?!

On day three Sally and George harnessed Rodrigo and attached the wagon. The wild and strong minded goat had ‘reflected’ over night and was far less ‘enthusiastic’ and more willing to listen and seemingly understanding of the task. He pulled George in a circular route around his garden when following Sally. He did struggle still with cornering but that will come. George said he would work on Rodrigo moving in straight lines to begin with , getting of the wagon to turn until Rodrigo is confident and will then work on turning.

Nijinsky however was a different story, we were hoping that his ‘reflection’ would have built a little confidence. He is however still very unsure, He walks well but is occasionally spooked into running, or nervously stops. Sally and myself still think that he has the potential to be n excellent harness goat, he just needs time, consistency and treats to build his confidence.

Our final task with George was to put a pack on Heinz. Sally showed George how the pack should be fitted and where it should be sited.

George declared he would like him to work as a pack goat, using him to pick up and collect trash along the cross trail (a public footpath/bridleway/cycle track).

Heinz was duly brought into the barn and the pack fitted…Heinz barely reacted and continued to walk graze and be completely normal, seemingly not even noticing the pack.

By this time, and sadly, Sally and I had a train to catch so needed to leave George.

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Emma Sawyer

Introduction to Barleylands

Barleylands incorporates Barleylands Farm Park, The village at Barleylands, Barleylands Equestrian Centre and Barleylands Campsite in Billericay, Essex.

The Philpot family business started in 1936 and quickly developed into a large arable farming business. The family: three brothers – Chris, Andrew Stuart and their father Peter worked together under the winder company ‘HR Philpot and Son (Barleylands) LTD.’

Led by Chris Philpot, Barleylands has become the focus for the family’s other great passion, education. The focus on education and our unique holiday events has set Barleylands apart from many other tourism businesses and has become our unique selling point.

The diversification of Barleylands becoming a tourist destination began in 1984 when Peter Philpot’s collection of vintage machinery became so large that he decided to open an agricultural themed museum to both be enjoyed and to educate the local community. Originally a dairy farm, Peter was able to utilise the old farm buildings that were no longer in use.

The next phase of development came in 1996 when eldest son Chris finished college and was given responsibility for the farm museum. Chris passion for education encouraged by his father saw the number of school children visiting the museum steadily increase.

Chris further developed the farm to enhance the learning experience. Several farm animals were introduced to help children understand where our food comes from. This investment gave Chris the idea of opening a Farm Park for the local community.

In its early beginnings the opening of the Farm Museum in 1984 grew and grew. Our aims now are to educate visitors on how they can learn about different types of farming and gain an understanding of how farming has impacted our lives in the past and how it affects us now. We hold hands on interactive session with a variety of animals, including our rare breeds which are steadily increasing.

Introduction to Emma and her herd

I am the assistant manager at Barleylands Farm Park. Previously I managed The Salvation Army Hadleigh Farm Rare Breed Centre for ten years. I have a passion for rare breeds, in particular the Bagot Goat.

I currently have seven Bagot goats; Queen Victoria, Veena, India, Buttercup, Snowdrop, Porridge and Marmalade. And Barleylands has another seven who are related to mine! I think the Bagot goats are a stunning breed which people often overlook. As a breed the Bagot goat is not good for milk or meat and are traditionally used for conservation grazing which means they can be quite feral. They are a medium size goat traditionally with a black head and white body.

Before working on the farm, I did a degree in Animal Behaviour and hosted dog training classes. I applied my skill set and trained an Anglo Nubian, Dora and a boar, Queenie who are part of the goat agility team at Barleylands. Queenie and Dora now weave, jump, climb, stand, and spin their way around our agility course daily.

I wanted to train Bagot goats in a similar way to show people that they aren’t as wild as people believe them to be. Like any pet I think the more time you spend with them the more benefits you will reap. I have spent a lot of time with my Bagot goats who were to the point they will now follow me with a bucket and the two boys I bred this year; Porridge and Marmalade have been target training. When I first started, they feared the clicker and boulted out of the pen but with a tasty bribe and a bit of patience they have now learnt target and stand. When I read on the Goat harness society that any goat could be trained, (except maybe the Bagot), it did make me chuckle and I am hoping with time and patience I can show this breed are also capable of being trained.

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